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OPINION – Forget about the climate crisis. Let’s have some fun!

OPINION – Forget about the climate crisis. Let’s have some fun!

People ride motorcycles beneath the lightly snow-capped Sierra Nevada Mountains on February 20, 2022 near Lone Pine, California. Following record breaking snowfall in December, January and February may be California’s driest ever recorded, exacerbating drought conditions in the state. Winter snow is a critical component of California’s water supply with December through March usually being the wettest months.

It’s not hard to give credit to the Americans. They’ve spent most of the last century being particularly great at weaving fantastical dreams in Hollywood, building cartoon castles, golf courses in the sand around Palm Springs, Venice-style canals in Vegas and condos on Florida swamp land.

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A surf resort in Mojave Desert? There’s something so spectacularly tone-deaf about a plan for a seven-hectare lake that would need 68 million litres of water that it’s weirdly fascinating to watch the developers try to convince local politicians to approve it.

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The resort is being proposed in La Quinta, one of the cities lining the highways south from Palm Springs through California’s Coachella Valley.

The Americans deserve it. They’ve spent most of the last century being particularly great at weaving fantastical dreams in Hollywood, building cartoon castles, golf courses in the sand around Palm Springs, Venice-style canals in Vegas and condos on Florida swamp land.

It’s a hard habit to break even with a climate emergency that is devastating communities — both there and around the world — with droughts, heat domes, wildfires, floods, freak storms with hail and thunder and two-metre snow drifts in April.

As usual, the hook is money — potentially US$4.23 million a year in taxes. There is also a catch. Coral Mountain Wave Development states that construction of its surf resort in the Pacific will be rolled out over 23 years.

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It was not possible to vote on the matter at the public hearing this week, as one of its planning commissioners was absent. It will be reviewed next week.

Yet, it seems pretty extraordinary that it wasn’t killed at the outset and is still being considered.

On the day of the public hearing and just two days after Palm Springs hit a record temperature of 38 C, the top story in the local paper was about California’s year-long drought emergency.

Farmers will not receive their usual water supplies as the mountain snowpack is at critical low levels.

It means homeowners can place water restrictions early and increase payouts for those who return to desert planting from their lawns.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom issued an executive order late last month asking people to take “common sense” measures to reduce their water use. But common sense seems to be missing.

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Just over a decade ago, the governor declared an emergency statewide in water use and urged citizens to cut back. Urban water consumption rose by 2.6% between January 2020 & January 2022.

So much for common sense especially among Coachella Valley residents who are already among the top 10 water users in the state in a country with the second highest water use in the world — second only to China whose population dwarfs America’s.

In the last ten years, the valley has fallen by as much as a metre at times. This is because the groundwater in this pretend oasis was pumped out to keep pools full and golf courses green.

To be fair, there is some opposition to this plan because of its water use. Coral Mountain, the developer has responded that it will use no more water per year than the original plan’s golf course.

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But at this week’s hearing, the most-reported opposition was from residents who don’t want short-term vacation rentals in their neighbourhood, don’t want more traffic and don’t want the floodlights that would allow nighttime surfing.

If this all seems a bit California wack-a-doodle, let’s just pause for a moment and consider what Vancouver city council didn’t do this week. No one would even second Colleen Hardwick’s motion to hold a plebiscite vote on whether to support a bid for the 2030 Winter Olympics.

Why is this important? Well, in 2010 at what was touted as “the greenest Olympics ever,” the weather was too ‘unseasonably’ warm for artificial snowmakers to work so a fleet of dump trucks and helicopters transported snow to Cypress Mountain from as far as 240 kilometres away in order for freestyle skiing and snowboarding competitions to be held.

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The increase in CO2 emissions was also due to all the people who came and went to Vancouver and Whistler.

Warm weather caused most of the snow to be manufactured at the Beijing Winter Games. The International Olympic Committee estimated that it required close to 223 millions litres of water. That’s enough to fill 90 Olympic swimming pools or, as CNN put it, provide a day’s worth of drinking water for nearly 100 million people.

So, what’s in it for local politicians to pay little more than lip service to the climate emergency? Money.

For La Quinta, that $4.23 million annually in transient occupancy and hotel taxes would more than cover the development’s $1.6 million estimated annual servicing costs. But that’s only if the site is fully developed and every house is used as a short-term rental.

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For a one-off deal like the Olympics cost-benefit analyses can be more complex and laden with intangibles, such as national pride or fun.

So far, there hasn’t been one done for the 2030 Olympics.

Consider the B.C. government’s claim Thursday that if FIFA chooses Vancouver as one of the 2026 World Cup hosts, it could bring in “more than $1 billion” in new tourism revenue from 2026 to 2032.

Great! But the cost of hosting three-five games at B.C. Place? The news release did not mention the cost of removing artificial turf and replacing it with grass.

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Twitter: @bramham_daphne

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